Help wanted sign out at USDA for advisory committees

03/14/2012 04:05:00 PM
Tom Karst

“They made this decision so they need to figure out on how to best address it,” he said.  

Guenther said it’s particularly concerning that the former chairman of the technical committee, Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash., was not invited back even though he is not a registered lobbyist.

Powers said experienced people remain on the committees. However, Powers regrets there is no current technical committee member representing the interest of apple, pear and cherry growers in the Northwest.

Technical committee member John McClung, president of the Mission-based Texas Produce Association, said the exclusion of lobbyists was understandable considering the policy of the Obama administration. However, he said the committee has lost access to some of the most compelling expertise in the industry.

The reformulated fruit and vegetable technical committee will still help the industry, one current committee member said.

“I’m bullish on the technical committee,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.  

Nelsen is the current chairman of the technical committee and is serving his third four-year term, and has said the group is listened to by trade and agriculture officials.

 “They are seeking legitimate input and it is up to the private sector apprised of what is going on,” he said.

In future meetings, Nelsen said he hopes the group can address communication between the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA as it relates to regulation of foreign production areas.

If there is a negative reaction to offshore production areas, whether it be grower or government, the USDA and USTR folks are best equipped to address the concerns,” he said.

“The last thing we want from an agriculture perspective is to have a knee jerk reaction from an offshore trading partner that suspends, hampers or otherwise creates a barrier in response to a food safety inspection team.” Nelsen said the fruit and vegetable technical committee will also discussion the ramifications of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the U.S. and more than a dozen countries in Asia and the South Pacific. “Should the potential trade agreement include Mexico, Canada and Japan?” Nelsen said. “There is controversy about that.”

Another agenda item is the Obama administration’s proposal to consolidate the USTR in the Department of Commerce. “I can tell you that there is significant heartburn among my colleagues about that issue,” he said.



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